Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Big Improvement In Rookie Class
by Ridge Mahoney, September 4th, 2009 3:30PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

All those voters who last year named Sean Franklin as their top choice for MLS Rookie of the Year are in a real pickle this time around.

Franklin, certainly, did a credible job in the middle for a bad Galaxy team, though his natural spot is right back. Still, a team that conceded 62 goals, as the Galaxy did last year, deserves a lot of blame to be spread around, despite his toughness and blistering pace.

This year's rookie crop is far superior to that of last year, when top offensive candidate Kheli Dube finished the season with just four goals and four assists, and the other finalist, Geoff Cameron, played several positions and started only eight games.

There are not one, but two, Galaxy rookie defenders vying for the honor this year, and even should A.J. DeLaGarza lose out to teammate Omar Gonzalez, it has to be said both have been better and more consistent - as has been the Galaxy as a team -- than Franklin was in 2008.

So have many other rookies, especially D.C. United's Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace, Sam Croninand Stefan Frei of Toronto, and another back-line pairing, that of Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes in New England.

This year's bunch has talent, certainly, but what has impressed veterans like United midfielder Ben Olsen, who's seen Pontius and Wallace on a daily basis since preseason began, and observed Wallace during his college career, is their maturity.

"I've been very impressed," says Olsen, who in the Open Cup final was replaced by Wallace in the 82nd minute. "Not much fazes him. He's one of those kids who loves to go out there and get on with it, very confident.

"We didn't know much about Chris until he came, but it didn't take more than a couple days to see that he was a player. What has struck me about both of them is how mature they are, and the composure and savvy that they have at their age. I certainly didn't have that composure when I was that age. That was nice to see."

Galaxy coach Bruce Arenagambled by putting his two rookie defenders side-by-side on the right, with veteran Gregg Berhalter as the left central defender and Todd Dunivant at left back. Arena's reasoning was simple; they played together at Maryland, which would accelerate both their development as professional players as well as foster better communication in the back. Franklin may regain his spot when he recovers from a torn hamstring - he resumed training just this week - but it won't be an easy process.

"They were a little bit wide-eyed when they came in, but that didn't last long," says Dunivant of Gonzalez and DeLaGarza. "You could tell they had already learned a lot of the lessons it takes some rookies a while to figure out."

Midfielder Cronin and goalkeeper Frei have stabilized TFC in the middle of the park, and further tweaking in midseason by Coach Chris Cummins - who dropped veteran goalie Greg Sutton to signal his confidence in Frei - has added more pace and energy for the stretch run. As a whole, the league's style of play is more physical and less polished than in its formative years, which critics may bemoan but coaches have little choice other than to find the players capable of success within those parameters.

Maybe that's the secret: get a pair of good rookies and play them both, though No. 1 pick Steve Zakuanihas done pretty well more or less on his own in Seattle. For this year's rich crop of rookies, their talent and zeal override the errors of inexperience.

"It's important to have a couple of young guys because that spirit, that energy is contagious," says Olsen, who broke into the league in 1998 after playing at the University of Virginia. "On the field, it's nice to have some young legs running around for you, especially when you're a 32-year-old, one-legged man in midfield."

 

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
Philadelphia Union embarks on its toughest stretch of games to date    
The Philadelphia Union, the Eastern Conference leader, plays in Orlando Wednesday, flies halfway across the country ...
Perry Kitchen finds a new niche in Scotland    
Perry Kitchen left MLS after five seasons though the destination turned out to be somewhat of ...
Howard leaves Everton for a much different MLS and USA    
Is the time right for Brad Guzan to take over as the U.S. No. 1? Both ...
Kamara deal shakes up stagnant Revs    
Nobody can match the production of Kei Kamara since he joined Columbus prior to the 2015 ...
Busy midweek schedules add to unique travel woes in MLS    
No MLS head coach or executive has ever praised the league's schedule-makers. Conflicts with other competitions ...
It's time for Klinsmann to go young    
At first blush, there is nothing startling about the 40-player list from which Jurgen Klinsmann will ...
NYCFC's Pirlo problem won't go away    
Jason Kreis, New York City FC's head coach for its expansion season, never came out and ...
Recent incidents sharpen focus on how video replay can improve the game    
MLS and other North American soccer leagues are awaiting specific guidelines to be issued by FIFA ...
MLS ups the ante on expansion    
Major League Soccer has come a long way in the last decade, let alone the last ...
How Brian McBride started his path to stardom    
Brian McBride is regarded as one of the top forwards in U.S. history and played in ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives